What’s Good About You?

25 Jan

Phew! What a busy week it was last week! This post arrives rather tardy as a result.

I’m now volunteering two days a week at the Centre on Philanthropy. It’s a great organisation which links corporates with not-for-profits and volunteers, and I’m assisting them with some of their initiatives around corporate charitable giving. I’ve also started a Spanish class to improve my rusty memories of verb endings and knowing when to use the imperfect tense. Ironically, I could remember how to say that “the issue of inequality between the sexes is still significant in today’s society” but couldn’t remember the word for “small”. (It’s pequeño) It’s a great back to basics class which clearly I need.

Last week I also had a two day training course on facilitating psycho-educational groups on subjects such as anger management, dealing with divorce and drugs education, for my volunteer work with drugs education charity PRIDE. It was extremely interesting to learn more about working with vulnerable young people, as well as meeting a range of local people working as counsellors or in pastoral care roles in schools.

We spent some time discussing raising young people’s self-esteem, and one delegate observed that children find it easy to answer “what they are good at” but difficult to answer “what’s good about you”. This is all too true. When I first started working with young people from “disadvantaged backgrounds”, I was baffled as to why some would get themselves pregnant. To my friends and me, at that age, the idea was terrifying. But then I realised that it was so terrifying to us because we knew we wanted to go to university and build a career, and getting ourselves pregnant would make that harder to do. For some of the girls I worked with, their attitude was more “well, what else am I going to do?” Despite these experiences in the UK, I still felt a little pang of sadness that, in Bermuda’s tight-knit community, there are so many young people going through life without knowing what is “good about them”.

Then I had an interesting conversation. One of the ladies in my group was too nervous to present our group’s work to the rest of the delegates. She explained that she’d been told in the past that she came across “too Bermudian” when she spoke, and this had knocked her confidence. She’d not spoken in public since.

I was dumbfounded – to speak with your nation’s accent is detrimental? In your own country? I think if I unpacked this prejudice, I’d find that this was really about class and race and other ridiculous notions of discrimination and snobbery. I truly hope that one day this lady realises that one of the things that is good about her is that she is from a country where people still say “good morning ma’am” and treat strangers like neighbours. And I hope that everyone who reads this post can answer the question “what’s good about you?”

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